Footy Times

Morocco stun Spain on penalties to reach WC quarterfinals

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Morocco upset Spain with a penalty shootout victory on Tuesday to advance to the quarterfinals of the World Cup.

The first half was controlled by Spain’s possession, but they were unable to breach Morocco’s resolute defence. Nayef Aguerd, a defender for Morocco, missed a close-range header that represented the half’s finest opportunity.

The 2010 World Cup champions possessed the ball for more than 75 percent of the game and completed nearly 800 passes, but they were unable to score in regulation, forcing extra time. With the score tied and Morocco having missed two one-on-one opportunities, a penalty shootout was necessary.

It was Morocco’s first shootout at the World Cup finals, while Spain’s fifth, but Morocco goalie Yassine Bounou became a hero by blocking Spain’s first penalty kick and saved their following two. Then, defender Achraf Hakimi went up with a chance to win it, and he chipped his penalties to win the shootout 3-0.

The win sees Morocco move to the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time, where they will face Portugal, who defeated Switzerland 6-1 on Tuesday evening.

It was the fourth time that Spain had been eliminated from the World Cup on penalties, and the second consecutive occasion.

“We fought and made the Moroccan people happy, we made history and Morocco deserve it, Moroccan people made us united on the pitch,” coach Walid Regragui told Bein Sports.

The Spaniards spent long stretches of the game circling the Moroccan penalty area, attempting no shots, through balls, or moves to break down their well-organized opponents.

They attempted to play the possession-style game that distinguished the great Spanish sides that won two European Championships and the World Cup between 2008 and 2012, but they lacked a cutting edge, and Morocco allowed them possession while attempting to exploit the pace of Hakim Ziyech and Soufiane Boufal.

A foul on the latter resulted in the African team’s first scoring chance, as Hakimi blazed over a free kick.

The only other chances in a tight first half came when defender Aguerd headed over and Spain midfielder Marco Asensio hit the side netting.

In the 54th minute, Dani Olmo had Spain’s first on-target shot, which Bounou palmed away.

Head coach Enrique introduced Alvaro Morata and Nico Williams to inject some life into his team, and Morocco had to dig deep to avoid conceding in extra time.

They succeeded, and Spain’s defeat in the shootout prompted wild celebrations among the ecstatic Morocco fans, who will have at least one more opportunity to make their presence felt in Qatar.

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